An Interview with Jake Retting


Jake Retting is one of the first-year Graduate Teaching Assistants working for the English department. We recently had a chance to sit down with him and discuss his background, his teaching style, and his teaching philosophy.

Jake attended Radford University for his undergraduate degree. He had an interesting focus of study. “It was Radford, Radford undergrad. I came here in 2011, graduated in 2015. Studied English and got a minor in religious studies.” When asked if there was a particular reason for the minor, Jake said, “It was just interesting to me and I happened to be building up credits. And I was just like, “You know, I’ve taken three religion classes already, so I may as well just go for the minor.” I only had to take two or three more or something to tack a minor on.”

Jake teaches CORE 101 on campus to undergraduate students as part of his Graduate Teaching Assistantship. When asked about the nature of his work and how he feels about it, Jake said, “It’s a good experience.”

Jake described his teaching style by saying, “I like discussion a lot, a whole lot. I like to engage them in writing activities more so to get them stimulated and to give us something to talk about. And nothing fluffy, I don’t like talking about fluffy stuff. I want to get into the grit. I want to pull the meat apart, show me them bones! I want my students talking about love and sex and death and deception.” He said the main reason for the discussion in his classes is, “It pulls things out of students that I think they wouldn’t otherwise come to on their own. But I think it’s also important to foster a safe and secure feeling in the classroom. People don’t have to share what they don’t want to.”

Jake believes that the thing he brings to the classroom that sets his classes apart from other CORE classes at the university is the sense of community he builds in his classrooms. “I don’t think that my classroom has a traditional feel. Whereas other teachers do what teachers have done in the past, they put something up on the board and they stand at the front, or they put slides up and talk about it. That’s fine, it’s informative. Every once in a while, I have to do something like that, but I think it’s a class with personality. At least what I would like to do is foster this community feeling, where they can relate to me more than they would a regular teacher. And, especially at the level we’re at right now, it’s pretty potent. I’m a student, they’re a student. We’re both working really hard. It’s like “Just do me this favor”. I think that’s how learning works or is at least an avenue that you can take that most students aren’t used to.”

Jake described his greatest strength as a teacher by saying, “You know, relatability. Humility, probably. I have self-esteem issues like everybody else. I’m usually not afraid to share them or show them. My ability to be honest about not knowing an answer to something, that humility is my greatest strength.”

Jake rounded out the interview with the one piece of information that he would want his students to know about him that they may not have learned from the rest of the interview. ““Uhm, last time I checked I can still do a kickflip [laughs].”